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When it's time to trade in your well-used vehicle for a shiny new model, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Car manufacturers offer a seemingly limitless inventory of vehicles to entice buyers, complete with seductive copy about driving excitement and moving forward on the road of life.
Before you jump into the PR-saturated adventure, make things easier for yourself by deciding exactly what you want. With a little bit of research and a few decisions made before submitting yourself to an overeager salesperson, you can be sure to drive away in the car that is ideal for you.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Car
While there are hundreds of new vehicle models released each year, you can quickly narrow the field of choice down dramatically by considering the following factors:
- Price - Taking into account your income and current debts, you'll probably have at least a ballpark figure of what kind of payment you'll be able and willing to pay for your new car. Many manufacturer websites have payment calculators that will help you determine monthly payments based on an invoice amount, and vice versa. Interest rates will definitely factor into your price figures; make sure to take a look at your credit report and become familiar with rates you may qualify for.
- Size - Do you want a new car to transport the kids and their friends to weekly soccer games? Or are you looking for something sleek and sporty for your nights out on the town? Depending on how you plan to use your car, you'll have an idea of what size vehicle you need. Think of your choices in terms of SUVs (including minivans), midsize sedans, compact cars, and sports cars. Consider pets and how often you transport them, too, before you decide on the ideal vehicle size.
- Options - Whether you're looking for a hemi, a V8, or an automatic transmission, these features will necessarily narrow down your choice of vehicles. Can't live without GPS? Crazy for cruise control? While the "extras" you want in your car are usually obtainable for almost any model, some newer features like state-of-the-art navigation and satellite assistance systems may not be available for the compact economy car you're reviewing. If there's a fancy feature you just can't live without, it may limit your choices to certain models or manufacturers. Mileage considerations will also factor into your choice as well.
- Overall preferences - This is the easy one. What kind of car do you like? With the numerous styles and colors available today, there is sure to be something to please every taste. Before buying a car, notice which vehicles grab your attention on the road. Observe which features and colors attract you, and what styles are more "you" than others.
Do Your Homework at Home
Once you have an idea of the type of car you're looking for (red midsize sedan with a V8 engine), you'll have somewhere to start in your research. The Internet is a fantastic tool when it comes to checking out the details of car models. The following websites are dedicated to helping buyers find exactly what they need:
- Carmax.com - offers actual assistance in buying a car, as well as information on current rebates and incentive programs for various manufacturers. Be sure to try the Monthly Payment Estimator online.
- CarBuyingTips.com - provides a wealth of information on auto sales scams and information on saving money and getting the best deal for your new or used car. Find out the secrets to successful car buying in How to Buy New Cars and Avoid Car Dealer Scams.
- Autobytel.com - features reviews, price quote request, information on rebates, and a comparison tool to help you find what works best for you. Know what to expect on your trade-in with the Kelley Blue Book Values page.
- CarsDirect.com - offers pricing information, articles on current models, credit tools, and search feature by category. Extras include a Hybrid Guide and information on auto loans.
Visit a Dealership When You're Prepared
You'll get the best deal, and the car you want, if you have a lot of knowledge and information at hand when you walk into your local dealership. Take control of the experience; don't let a persistent salesperson maneuver you into considering a car that you don't really want.
When you do your homework, and are confident in your must-have features and conditions, you'll be successful and have a much more pleasant buying experience.